July 7, 2008

Soaring vs. Flapping
“They will soar with wings like eagles.â€? (Isaiah 40:31″
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Eagles and other large birds have a way of flying that is almost effortless. We call it “soaring.â€? Once the bird reaches a level where there are consistent air currents, its wings stop beating and let the air carry it. With minor adjustments of key wingtip feathers, the bird can actually ride these currents for hours with little energy invested. From this lofty surveillance position, the bird can spot potential prey and strategize just the right attack approach. Meanwhile, it is safe from all potential predators.

Not all birds soar. A hummingbird depends on a rapid wing-beat of up to eighty per second to allow it to hover over a flower while it sucks up nectar. Other birds’ flight can be described as “flittingâ€? or “darting,â€? as they employ the best style of flying for their environment and for the challenge of capturing insects or other prey for their sustenance.

One form of flying that is particularly inefficient can be called “flapping.â€? It’s best seen in the frantic activity of a startled chicken. Wings suddenly move wildly, sometimes seeming to operate independently of each other. The frantic chicken lurches, first this way, then that way, in a frenetic attempt to escape from a real or imagined foe. In the process, a great deal of energy has been spent, and the chicken is still in virtually the same spot.

Spiritually, it’s much better to soar than to flap. If I am in tune with the currents of God’s love and purpose, I seem to be able to float. Prayer feels natural, and faith comes automatically. I am soaring.

But if I’m living on the ground, scratching out a meaningless life, chicken-like, I’m not really ready to fly. When a problem or challenge confronts me, my reaction is panic, and I say, “Wings, get flapping!â€? They do, but their movement is haphazard and uneven. When I realize the danger is past, I fold up my wings and go back to my scratching and pecking.

f I want to be a spiritual soarer, I have to learn from the eagles. First, I have to live as high up as possible. Because the eagle makes its nest on a high cliff or tree, it can begin soaring just by jumping from the nest, without the need for a lot of flapping for lift-off. I need to live my life on a higher level, closer to God, in an attitude of prayer in harmony with God’s will and God’s way.

Also, I should learn from the eagle that soarers always have their wings extended. If they folded them up to relax for a while, they’d suddenly fall like a rock. So my spiritual life can’t be on-again, off-again. I must constantly have my wings open wide to catch God’s currents.

Unfortunately, too much of my spiritual life has been chicken-flapping. I have wings, but most of my life is spent on the earth. As a result, spiritual flying is hard for me, when it should be easy.

Flapping like chicken!